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24 Jul, 2012

Denver Columnist Sees the Light: “What If Shooter’s Name Was Ibrahim?”

Denver Post Columnist Chuck Murphy is one of the few U.S. journalists who has seen the light. In a 23 July column, he says, “If Holmes were Iranian-American, or Afghan-American, his purchases, his apparent withdrawal and his plans probably would have been noticed by neighbors, reported and investigated. Not fair. Just true.”

In what should be an alert for the entire travel & tourism industry, which is also facing similar issues related to blatant anti-Muslim racial profiling in the travel chain, Murphy’s column probes the issue of “investigational parity” across all forms of threats, free of any selective bias or discrimination based on racial, ethnic or religious grounds.

Responding to the Denver shootings, he interviews Imam Ibrahim Kazerooni, identified as “an Iraqi by birth, a former political prisoner of Saddam Hussein and a thoughtful, eloquent representative of Denver’s Muslim community.”

The column quotes Imam Ibrahim as saying, “”This guy literally arms himself to the teeth by mail order without anyone pointing a finger and saying, ‘What’s going on?’ If my name is Ibrahim or Mohammed and I order a gun or that much ammunition on the Internet, I think within a few hours of the delivery, the FBI and CIA is at my house.”

Read the full column by Chuck Murphy here.

The question is becoming increasingly relevant to the travel & tourism industry which, as pointed out repeatedly in Travel Impact Newswire dispatches, has totally ignored it. Our spineless industry leaders have devoted ample time, money and resources to enhancing safety and security across the travel and transport system without raising nary a question about what is really going on under the covers.

Numerous reports have appeared in the public domain about blatant discrimination against Muslims at security checkpoints, visa offices and many more entry/exit access points. A number of U.S. airlines have removed Muslims from their flights because someone perceived them or their behaviour to be “threats” only for the hapless targets of the suspicions to be found totally in the clear.

U.S. rights groups such as the Council of Arab Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Muslim Advocates have repeatedly highlighted, documented and reported the widespread nature of this discrimination and the harm it is doing to U.S. society internally as well as the U.S. image abroad. But the myopic travel, tourism and transportation industry prefers to focus on “enhancing security” via body-scanners, biometrics, electronic passports, etc.

All this while alleged killers like James Eagan Holmes get weaponry delivered to their doorstep.

Mr Murphy’s column stresses this discrimination in the interview with Imam Ibrahim. It says, “The fact that neighbors and delivery drivers seem to have failed to notice as Holmes amassed his weapons and ammunition and booby-trapped his apartment, while, for example, New York City police actively loiter in Muslim coffee shops to collect intelligence, is indicative of the greater scrutiny Muslims face in our society in the years since Sept. 11, 2001, Kazerooni said.

“There is the general feeling that exists in the U.S. Muslim community that they are marginalized and treated differently,” Kazerooni said. “The foundation for this is real. There are a number of examples in the country that have led to this cynicism.”

The comments that Mr Murphy’s column attracted also make for interesting reading. Some of the responders trash the entire discrimination argument and continue to parrot the line about Muslims and terrorism. Others are beginning to see the light. All are worth reading as a starting point for a deeper and wider debate in the travel, tourism and transportation sector about the root causes of safety and security problems, and the means of addressing them.